Walking in the Character and Power of God

November 5-6, 2004
Kingdom Living Conference - The Church of the Open Door - Maple Grove, MN

This conference, featuring Dallas Willard and Todd Hunter, sought to help individuals and churches experience, in a deeper way, the supernatural power of life in the Kingdom in everyday life. It was held at the Church of the Open Door in Maple Grove, MN on November 5-6, 2004. The sessions included:

  1. Character and Power: An Introduction to their Vital Connection (Willard) 
  2. Cultivating Communities of the Holy Spirit (Hunter)
  3. Spiritual Transformation (Willard)
  4. Gifts: Tools for Ambassadors of the Kingdom of God (Hunter)
  5. Being Filled with Power: The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit (Willard)
  6. Hearing a “Call” in a Life of Character and Power (Willard)
  7. Vision: What Should We Go and Do? (Willard)


Another set of talks, entitled "The Church as the Community of the Kingdom of God," took place November 4, 2004, at the same location.
 

Resources

1: Character and Power: An Introduction to their Vital Connection

Dallas illuminates the critical nexus of character and power in Kingdom living. Only character formed in Christ's likeness enables the safe harnessing of Kingdom power in our everyday living. True spiritual growth not only harmonizes the self, bringing God’s peace, but also teaches us to navigate temptation beyond mere sin avoidance, focusing our desires on the creative pursuit of beauty, goodness, and truth.  

2: Cultivating Communities of the Holy Spirit

Todd Hunter explores how to cultivate Spirit-led communities, merging personal experiences with deep spiritual insights. This talk explores the balance of spiritual gifts and character integrity, addressing the challenges of excess to foster a faith that embodies power, love, and a profound connection with the Holy Spirit.

3: Spiritual Transformation

Dallas Willard explores the deep link between character and spiritual power, urging a life aligned with God's Kingdom through the Holy Spirit. He emphasizes living salvation now, through spiritual disciplines and character transformation, to wield God's power humbly and effectively, mirroring Jesus' example.

4: Gifts: Tools for Ambassadors of the Kingdom of God

Dive into a transformative exploration of spiritual gifts with Todd Hunter, challenging traditional perceptions and advocating for a flexible, Holy Spirit-led approach. Discover how to live in readiness for divine appointments, empowering you to impact the world with the love and power inherent in true kingdom service.

5: Being Filled with Power: The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

Todd Hunter invites the charismatic faithful to cultivate authentic spiritual encounters over attempting to orchestrate them. Sharing from his personal journey and wisdom, Hunter calls for a heartfelt, Spirit-led existence, emphasizing that true spiritual might and a profound connection with the Holy Spirit stem from humility and sincerity.

6: Hearing a “Call” in a Life of Character and Power

Todd Hunter invites listeners into a thoughtful exploration of how the Gospel transforms lives beyond mere words to a dynamic, participatory journey with God. He challenges the traditional notion that the Gospel is solely a message to be proclaimed, instead unveiling it as the very form of our engagement in God's redemptive work for the world. Hunter sets the stage for a transformative dialogue, culminating in a vibrant Q&A session with Dallas Willard. 

7: Vision: What Should We Go and Do?

Dallas addresses a life deeply rooted in Jesus’ teachings. He unpacks discipleship, arguing that it goes beyond mere adherence to a set of beliefs or practices; it's about embodying the principles of Jesus' teachings in every aspect of one's life. He urges a transition from a passive reception of God's work to an active participation in God's kingdom here on earth. Dallas urges his audience to reflect on their roles as change agents in a world that desperately needs the light of the gospel.

Character and Power: An Introduction to their Vital Connection

Dallas' talk examines spiritual transformation and its indispensable role in the Christian life. He begins by advocating for a deep, meditative engagement with Scripture, specifically pointing to Colossians 3:1-17. He emphasizes that the true power of God's word is unlocked not through isolated verses but through the immersive study and memorization of passages. This process, he suggests, embeds the divine wisdom into the very fabric of our being.

Dallas discusses the critical role of the body in spiritual formation, arguing against the common neglect of physicality in spiritual practices. He illustrates how traditional practices like breath prayer are not mere rituals but profound engagements with the spiritual life that deeply involve the body. This holistic approach, integrating body and spirit, is essential for overcoming the barriers to living out the easy yoke of Jesus and walking in His power.

Central to Willard's message is the intricate relationship between character and power within the Christian context. He warns of the dangers posed by power untethered from character, drawing examples from biblical figures like Samson and Saul. Their stories serve as cautionary tales about the futility of possessing power without the foundational character shaped by love and humility. Dallas posits that only through a character formed in the image of Christ can one safely wield the power of the Kingdom, ensuring that such power is used for godly purposes and the advancement of the Kingdom.

Finally, Dallas emphasizes the transformational impact of living a life aligned with the Kingdom of God. He envisions a community of believers whose lives are so deeply formed by their character in Christ that they become conduits of divine power, influencing the world around them. This transformation, he suggests, is not just for the individual's benefit but for the collective witness of the Church in the world. Dallas invites listeners into a journey of deep spiritual formation, where the ultimate goal is to harmonize our desires with God's will, allowing us to wield Kingdom power with wisdom and love.

Cultivating Communities of the Holy Spirit

In his talk titled "Cultivating Communities of the Holy Spirit," Todd Hunter shares a deeply personal narrative reflecting his lifelong engagement with the Holy Spirit's person and work. Starting from his conversion at nineteen during the Jesus movement, Hunter traces his journey through the highs and lows of spiritual leadership, marked by the tragic downfall of spiritually gifted individuals to moral failures. This narrative sets the stage for a broader discussion on the proper engagement with the Holy Spirit, inspired by conversations with Dallas Willard and the influence of John Wimber's efforts to integrate the Holy Spirit's work into evangelical practice. Hunter emphasizes the importance of moving beyond mere doctrinal acknowledgment of the Holy Spirit to a lived experience that encompasses both the charismatic gifts and the transformative character of Christlikeness.

Hunter critiques the common evangelical response to the Holy Spirit, which often swings between outright rejection due to fear of excess and uncritical embrace that leads to spiritual abuse. He argues for a balanced approach that acknowledges the Holy Spirit's essential role in personal transformation and communal life. Drawing on the New Testament, particularly Paul's letters, Hunter underscores the importance of both character and spiritual gifts in the life of believers. He points out the dichotomy in contemporary Christian practice, where the emphasis is often placed on doctrinal correctness at the expense of spiritual dynamism and practical expression of the Spirit's power. This part of the talk serves as a corrective, urging believers to seek a holistic engagement with the Holy Spirit that includes both moral integrity and openness to the spiritual gifts.

The conclusion of Hunter's talk is a practical application of his theological reflections. He invites his audience to a moment of prayer and openness to the Holy Spirit, aiming to move from theoretical understanding to experiential knowledge. This segment is marked by a communal prayer for the Holy Spirit's filling and empowerment, reflecting Hunter's desire to see believers not only intellectually engaged with the concept of the Holy Spirit but actively participating in a life shaped by His presence. This call to action emphasizes the transformative potential of the Holy Spirit to equip the church for mission and ministry, encapsulating Hunter's vision of a Christian community that embodies the fullness of the gospel through both its character and its power.

Spiritual Transformation

Dallas plunges deeper into the concept of the Kingdom of God, reinforcing that Jesus' teachings consistently centered around this theme. He challenges common misconceptions about salvation, arguing that it is more than just a ticket to heaven but involves living a godly life in the present world, driven by the Holy Spirit's guidance. By referencing various biblical passages, Dallas underscores the importance of character development and the pursuit of good works as essential elements of living within God's Kingdom. He stresses that salvation should manifest in one's life as a principle of activity, leading to self-initiation and direction powered by the Holy Spirit.

Expanding on the theme of power and authority, Dallas distinguishes between worldly and spiritual conceptions of power. He criticizes the human tendency to seek power through position or status, offering instead the model of Jesus, who exemplifies power without position. This, according to Dallas, requires preparation and character development, as true spiritual power can only be wielded effectively by those who have undergone a transformation that aligns their desires and actions with God's will. The disciples' experience of waiting for the Holy Spirit is presented as a pivotal period of preparation for receiving the power to carry out their mission without succumbing to the temptations of worldly power.

Concluding his talk, Dallas emphasizes the transformative power of living in accordance with God's Kingdom. He encourages the audience to adopt a lifestyle of spiritual disciplines, prayer, and engagement with Scripture as means to foster spiritual growth and character development. Through these practices, believers can experience the reality of God's action in their lives, leading to a profound sense of peace and joy. Dallas's message is a call to embrace a holistic understanding of the gospel, centered on the transformative relationship with Jesus Christ and active participation in the Kingdom of God, with the ultimate goal of becoming individuals through whom God can work powerfully in the world.

Gifts: Tools for Ambassadors of the Kingdom of God

Todd Hunter addresses the process of understanding and integrating spiritual gifts within the Christian life, emphasizing the union of character and power through the Holy Spirit. He discusses the challenges and fears associated with stepping into roles facilitated by spiritual gifts, advocating for a journey of learning and growth that mirrors the disciples’ experience with Jesus. Hunter underscores the significance of being open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in utilizing gifts for ministry, suggesting that this openness allows for a dynamic and responsive engagement with the needs of the world. Through anecdotes and biblical references, he illustrates the transformative potential of living as cooperative friends of Jesus, dedicated to serving with creative goodness.

Hunter expands on the concept of divine appointments and the situational nature of spiritual gifts, challenging the fixed perception of spiritual gifts as inherent traits and advocating for a more flexible understanding. He encourages believers to approach each day with anticipation of the Holy Spirit’s prompting, ready to serve in whatever capacity is needed. This perspective fosters a reliance on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment for ministry, rather than limiting oneself to a predefined set of gifts. Hunter’s discussion invites reflection on how spiritual gifts can be more effectively recognized and utilized within the Christian community, promoting a culture of mutual encouragement and support in spiritual growth.

Concluding his talk, Hunter emphasizes the importance of creating communities characterized by love and humility, where believers can freely explore and exercise their spiritual gifts without fear of judgment or failure. He advocates for a balanced approach to ministry, where personal transformation and service go hand in hand, driven by a genuine encounter with the Holy Spirit. By sharing stories from the early church and his own experiences, Hunter illustrates how living in partnership with the Holy Spirit can lead to impactful ministry and personal growth, urging listeners to engage deeply with the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives and communities.

Being Filled with Power: The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

In this talk, Todd Hunter shares insights from his extensive experience within the charismatic and Pentecostal movements, highlighting the importance of engaging with the Holy Spirit in a way that is genuine and not manipulative. He emphasizes the necessity of being "naturally supernatural," meaning that actions and prayers within the community should come from a place of authenticity rather than for show or effect. Hunter underscores the concept that spiritual life should not be overly focused on meetings or attempts to control outcomes but should be integrated into every aspect of daily life.

Hunter further discusses the dangers of emotionalism and attempting to exert control over spiritual experiences. He points out that genuine encounters with the Holy Spirit are not about emotional hype or trying to manipulate God through our faith. Instead, he encourages a balanced approach where emotions are not artificially heightened but are natural responses to genuine encounters with God. Hunter uses the example of a miraculous healing to illustrate how emotions can be appropriate and powerful in the context of a real move of God, while cautioning against manufacturing these emotions.

Towards the end of his talk, Hunter provides practical advice for engaging in prayer and healing ministry, advocating for an approach that is attentive both to the Holy Spirit and the individual being prayed for. He outlines a process that includes interviewing the person, seeking a spiritual diagnosis, selecting an appropriate form of prayer, and then praying with a focus on being present to both God and the person. This method emphasizes respect, attentiveness, and the willingness to take manageable risks in faith, aiming to foster a deeper and more authentic communal life in the Spirit.

Hearing a “Call” in a Life of Character and Power

Highlights:

  • Essence of the Gospel: Todd Hunter eloquently shifts the paradigm from understanding the Gospel as merely a message to be proclaimed, to viewing it as an active participation in what God is accomplishing in the world.
  • Power of Community: Highlighting the transformative potential of spiritual community, Hunter discusses the critical role that fellowship plays in nurturing and supporting individuals' journeys toward understanding and living out their calling.
  • Spiritual Transformation: The discussion navigates the importance of inward transformation as the foundation for outward expression of faith, emphasizing the journey from intellectual assent to lived reality in the rhythms of grace.
  • Engaging the Wounded: Addressing the challenge of reaching those hurt by the church, Hunter advocates for embodying a genuine, alternative community characterized by love, acceptance, and healing.
  • Confronting Relativism: In the face of moral relativism, Dallas points to the steadfast nature of truth and goodness, encouraging a compassionate engagement that leads individuals from skepticism to a sincere quest for authenticity and depth in their spiritual life.
  • Role of Discipline: The conversation launches into the significance of spiritual disciplines as means to facilitate personal growth and deeper communion with God, illustrating how practices such as solitude, silence, and prayer enrich the believer's journey.
  • Leadership and Service: Through the dialogue, the vital relationship between spiritual leadership and servanthood emerges, underscoring the idea that true leadership in faith communities involves guiding others toward their own encounters with God and their personal missions.
  • Eternal Perspectives: Dallas touches on the profound implications of our choices and spiritual formation in this life for our participation in the next, offering a nuanced understanding of eternal destiny that balances God's sovereignty with human agency and the reality of consequence.

Vision: What Should We Go and Do?

Highlights:

  • Active Engagement with Scripture: Dallas emphasizes the transformative power of engaging deeply with the Scriptures. He highlights the practice of memorization and meditation, especially on passages like Colossians 3, as a means to internalize Christ's teachings and fundamentally change one's character and approach to life.
  • Discipleship Beyond Knowledge: He challenges the audience to see discipleship not merely as acquiring knowledge about Jesus or adhering to a set of beliefs but as a radical reorientation of one's life to follow Jesus' example in every aspect.
  • Role of Spiritual Disciplines: Dallas underscores the value of spiritual disciplines, such as solitude, fasting, and service, in the believer's life. These practices are presented not as ends in themselves but as means to cultivate a deeper relationship with God and a more Christ-like character.
  • Living Out the Gospel in Everyday Life: He advocates for a practical application of the gospel that transcends traditional religious activities, urging believers to embody the teachings of Jesus in their daily lives, making every moment an opportunity for spiritual growth and kingdom living.
  • Call to Love and Serve: Dallas calls for a commitment to love and serve others as a fundamental expression of living in the kingdom of God. He emphasizes that genuine discipleship involves extending Jesus' love to everyone.
  • Reconsidering the Gospel Message: Dallas invites the audience to rethink the gospel message, moving away from a narrow focus on salvation and towards a broader understanding of the kingdom of God that includes active participation in God's redemptive work in the world.
  • Transformative Effect of Disciplines on Disposition: He discusses how the practice of spiritual disciplines can significantly reduce tendencies like irritability and discouragement, promoting a more peace-filled and joyous life that reflects the presence of the kingdom of God.
  • Engaging with the World as Disciples: Finally, Dallas emphasizes the necessity for disciples to engage with the world around them, not in judgment or isolation but as agents of God's love and grace, showcasing the practical outworking of their faith in real-world contexts.